“Pehli Si Mohabbat” has been touted as ARY’s grand, intense love story and has been promoted on that scale as well, including a romantic OST sung and featuring Ali Zafar. The channel has left no stone unturned in promoting this Maya Ali and Sheheryar Munawar starrer, which marks both Maya and Sheheryar’s return to the small-screen after a long break of several years. The show has been written by Faiza Iftikhar, directed by Anjum Shehzad and also stars Hassan Shehryar Yasin, Uzma Shah, Paras Masroor, Nausheen Shah and Shabbir Jan in prominent roles. So how does the first episode fare? Let’s discuss!
In episode 1, we are introduced to Rakshi (Maya Ali), a young, motherless girl who is lively and dotes on her father. She is brought down with a crash when her father arrives with a new wife (Rabia Butt) with a questionable past. This quickly becomes the discussion of their small neighborhood with fingers being pointed at Rakshi’s father, Faizullah (Shabbir Jan) for bringing such a woman into their neighborhood to “corrupt their women.” While this is a highly over the top situation, it’s also one that is believable and also points out the hypocrisies within our society. These “religious” men preach one thing and then, due to a woman’s entry into their space, turn into violent monsters.
Aslam (Shehryar Munawar) is a young man who has been living in Karachi with relatives for years – but is suddenly called back to Hyderabad when his family decides to get him engaged to his cousin Bushra (who resides in that same house). Akram (HSY) is Aslam’s religious, pious father who wants his family to conduct themselves in a certain way. What’s interesting here is how pure-of-heart Aslam appears to be. He’s young and moldable, so while he relies on Bushra the way one would rely on a sibling, he doesn’t really fight the decision of his engagement. Rather, he’s seen looking at Bushra in a different way after finding out and begins talking to her on the phone, accepting her as his to-be wife. It would all be very sweet if he didn’t lose his heart just as quickly to Rakshi.
With Faizullah out of the home, Rakshi and her new stepmother find themselves in a bind when Akram and his group of religiously superior men arrive at the door and, after an exchange of words with Faizullah’s wife, begin throwing stones into the house in anger. Aslam tries to quiet the mob by going into the house (which is absolutely ridiculous) and, in the meantime, Faizullah arrives back home and confronts the mob. This, of course, leaves time for Rakshi and Aslam to come face-to-face and share a “moment,” which is enough to show how their romance will move forward.
Let’s discuss the positives first. The visuals are the highlight of the episode – everything from the color choices, the production values, the cinematography, it’s all applause-worthy. A visually stunning backdrop is a great way to pull in the audience and “Pehli Si Mohabbat” has succeeded here. Second, the story with Faizullah and his new wife is intriguing. What is the backstory here and why has he brought a woman like this back home with him as his wife? Going by the conversation between Rakshi and her father, Faizullah appears to be a conservative man with strict values – and Rakshi does not shy away from pointing this out. It’s clear that Rakshi may be meek, but she’s not a sitting duck who will quietly accept everything around her. The performance that stands out in this episode though is that of HSY as Aslam. This is an entirely different character for HSY, very different from how he is in real life, and he manages to play it convincingly.
This episode is not without its share of flaws. Let’s jump to the end scene where this mob of “religious” men have gathered outside Rakshi’s home, these men with raging egos, unwilling to accept Rakshi’s stepmother’s dubious character. The mob itself feels realistic enough, something that could happen, but then things go for a loop when Aslam decides to jump the wall and see if Rakshi’s father is actually inside – and these men say “Okay”! They are so appalled by a woman speaking back to them, but not at a young man jumping into a house where a young woman resides.
The love story itself is a bit forced here at this point in the sense that who randomly develops a soft corner for a girl simply because he hears her crying? Yes, perhaps concern could be something that would develop, but would a stranger really think anything more than this? Then when he bumps into her in the house, in a situation that’s already pretty questionable, he simply forgets that he’s engaged and “falls” for Rakshi at first sight. It’s only the first episode, but at this point, there’s nothing particularly sweet or root-worthy for this pair. Aslam is an engaged boy who has already accepted his fiancé, so this doesn’t necessarily sit well. Sheheryar Munawar is sweet enough as Aslam and it remains to be seen how his character (and performance) grow from here.
Overall, the first episode is interesting enough and sets the tone for the rest of the show.